Military personnel watch on a screen as President Obama makes a live address at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. (Photo: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The White House chose the anniversary of the killing of Osama Bin Laden for an unannounced visit by President Obama to Afghanistan to sign a strategic partnership agreement with the nation and to address the troops that remain there. (Read transcript.)
The speech outlined the details of an agreement to achieve security in the region and continue the effort to defeat al Qaeda in the region. The Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai has five goals including: transitioning to an Afghan-led security force; training Afghan troops to maintain a long-term security force; keeping an enduring partnership with Afghanistan; pursuing Afghan-led reconciliation efforts with groups like the Taliban; and restoring peace and stability to South Asia.
During the president’s address he expressed thanks to the troops for their sacrifice and service.
Obama said, “We have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon. The Iraq war is over. The number of our troops in harm’s way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al Qaeda.”
The president also focused on the U.S. “It is time to renew America," he said as he described his vision of the U.S. "An America where our children live free from fear, and have the skills to claim their dreams. A united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation.”
The president set out to establish his foreign policy credibility on the most visible platform possible. Robert Smith, Ph.D., policy analyst said, “He took advantage of this time to begin to establish in the American public’s mind that he is a credible, competent and tough commander in chief.”
The new agreement may be a sobering one to the men and women in service who may have thought an end to military action would mean a complete end to our ties with Afghanistan. “By framing this discussion about the military conflict in Afghanistan, the president made clear a somewhat new agreement with Afghanistan, ending the war but not the relationship with that nation for years to come," says Smith.
While the administration has been slow to celebrate today as the anniversary of the killing of Bin Laden, marking the victory on Afghan soil brings new emphasis to what many view as a national security coup.
Obama detractors are accusing the president of taking credit for an effort they believe began long before the president came to office. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) criticized President Obama’s surprise visit saying in a statement released to The Hill newspaper. Inhofe said, “Clearly this trip is campaign related. We’ve seen recently that President Obama has visited college campuses in an attempt to win back the support of that age group since he has lost it over the last three years. Similarly, this trip to Afghanistan is an attempt to shore up his national security credentials, because he has spent the past three years gutting our military.”
The president recognized that many Americans are tired of war but said that we must finish the job that’s been started and pledge to end the war responsibly.
"This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end,” he said at the conclusion of his speech.
Hours after the president left Afghanistan, the Taliban attacked the capital of Kabul in what the terror organization said was retaliation for Obama's visit to the country. Seven people were killed in the attacks.
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